2003 Nissan 350Z (429)


This week’s ride promises to be a huge success for Nissan in the form of the newly designed “Z”, the 350 Z – and it is wonderful.

Trust me, if you are a sports car nut, you have to go test drive one. The reason I like it so much is not because I’m nuts but I do go crazy over outstanding performance. And for the money this is a winner.

Part of my interest in the 350Z is the overall revival of Nissan beginning with its change in management. Carlos Ghosn started with Nissan in June 1999 and in 2001 he became its President and CEO. One man “can” make a difference and by all indications this guy has made noticeable adjustments and turned huge losses into profits.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Los Angeles

Class:  – Sports Car

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Sentra, Xterra.

2002 Lexus SC 430 @ about $58,000.

Handling & Performance:

When you have a love for cars it has a lot to do with how they handle. This 350Z is a wonderful driving experience. My engineer friend, Merkel, gave it a test drive and came to the same conclusions – “Acceleration, handling and brakes are impressive”. I also agree with him that the transmission is slow to shift and even the “Tiptronic” feature only holds it in a particular gear. When you shift it is as slow as it is in Drive mode, where I preferred to operate. I also feel the 6-speed manual transmission would be a mistake for the average driver.


Well, Merkel and I didn’t agree on the styling. I like it and he felt it is chopped up with contrasting vertical and horizontal design things like the door handles. Aesthetically and from a technical design standpoint he is probably 100% correct. But perhaps the departure from conventional thinking is what is so appealing to me.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent for the most part but I wish they had done something with the seat belts to keep them from knocking against the doorframe – annoying. Yes, I do wear my seat belt, but I don’t always have a passenger. Merkel felt the seats were uncomfortable but I didn’t get that sense at all, but then I didn’t take this Touring model on a long trip. I guess I was preoccupied with “enjoying the ride”.


Wow, what a list of standard equipment. This Z was equipped with more than I needed, but most of it is related to performance enhancers you only find on more pricey sports cars. My 6 foot 4 inch friend Norm sat in the car and was fine with the legroom. He usually has a problem with cars accommodating his rather tall frame.


Well priced for what you get – but many will find the cost high for a two seater.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you’re in the market for a two seater sports car you might want to look beyond the recognized competition noted below and test drive the Lexus SC 430 at roughly $60,000. Then when you test-drive the Z, you will really be impressed.

The Competition:

Nissan 350Z $26-34,000, Acura RSX $20-23,000, Audi TT $33-39,000, BMW Z3 $31-38,000, Ford Mustang $18-38,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-28,000, Toyota Celica $17-22,000, VW GTI $19-22,000.

Good News:

Unique styling, well priced, fantastic performance.

Bad News:

Unique styling, well priced, fantastic performance.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 287 horsepower V6 engine, 5-speed automatic trans, continuously variable valve timing control system, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, limited slip differential, carbon fiber reinforced drive shaft, electronic throttle, stabilizer bars, integrated strut tower brace, 4-wheel abs power disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution, 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, rear window wiper (no washer), leather, 4-way power heated driver seat, 2-way power heated passenger seat, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, climate control, Bose audio with 6 in dash CD player with 7 speakers, cruise control, Homelink transceiver, trip computer, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, security system with immobilizer system, remote keyless entry, dual air bags, tire pressure monitor and real aluminum interior accents.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 26 Highway MPG.


MSRP $34,000.

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